“First and foremost, as a gay man, and one who works at an organization focused on the LGBT community, it is extremely important to me that we develop ways that gay and bisexual men can protect themselves from HIV (and other STIs). Secondly, as an HIV advocate I feel it is important to create a robust and full toolbox that helps to prevent HIV infection and helps those living with HIV. Rectal Microbicides need to be one of the tools at our disposal.”

Gary is an IRMA advocate from Baltimore, Maryland. He is currently the Director of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore (GLCCB). He loves conducting trainings in the community on a range of topics including advocacy planning, providing culturally competent care to the GLBT population and on topics related to new prevention technologies (NPT). He also enjoys spending time with friends at the pub, reading David Sedaris, watching “well-made” horror movies, and his cat, Aureliano.

Gary first became involved with IRMA while working at the Global Campaign for Microbicides (GCM). At this time he was well versed in preventative vaccine research and the research and trials surrounding vaginal microbicides, but he wasn’t as familiar with rectal microbicides. Shortly after starting at GCM he was introduced to people like Anna Forbes and Jim Pickett. He remembers a GCM meeting being co-hosted by the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) where this man kept chiming in with “What about rectal microbicides?!” Of course it was Jim, and Gary became inspired from that point on to learn more about rectal microbicides and involve himself with IRMA.

Gary tries to include vaginal and rectal microbicides in any talks he gives about HIV to the community. He believes knowledge is key, and a well informed base is necessary to move any work forward. He advises others doing HIV work to include microbicides in their agenda and points them to the IRMA website and blog for more information about them if needed. He also encourages IRMA members to become more involved on the listserv. He says that “by becoming more engaged in the conversations happening in this space then the more opportunities we have to gain new perspectives, find common ground on diverse issues, and develop new ideas.”

His advice for IRMA advocates combating stigma for their beliefs and work is to approach the individuals or organizations perpetuating the stigma with an open mind, listen to their arguments and opinions, and be prepared to create an informed and fact-based response. He hopes that this will bring about “some sort of common ground.” If this doesn’t work and the individual or organization is not willing to listen, he suggests reaching out to others that may be able to influence them- a method he calls “taking it to the streets!”

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[If an item is not written by an IRMA member, it should not be construed that IRMA has taken a position on the article’s content, whether in support or in opposition.]